Current flu season no worse than usual

The nurse’s office at Lincoln, pictured in March 2017.

Here at Lincoln, with 1,800 students, there is a lot of risk for spread of illnesses. You may notice fewer  people showing up to your class, or that you yourself seem to feel under the weather. Some students have expressed beliefs that recently, there have been more absences due to sickness than usual.

But is that the result in an increased number of students coming down with the flu.

Not necessarily, according to Judith Guzman-Cottrill, a professor of Pediatrics at OHSU School of Medicine.

“Oregon has seen a lot of influenza during this 2016-17 season, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s worse than usual,” says Guzman-Cottrill.

A Cardinal Times review of attendance data seems to agree. Over the past three months at Lincoln, was an average of 2,622 total absences throughout the eight periods. Most of the absences were during the first periods of the day, first and fifth. This makes sense because people are getting to school late, or sleeping in entirely.

Looking at the numbers for absences per month, there is no correlation between the peak times of the flu, and more people being absent. The numbers have consistently stayed around 1,000, per period, for each month.

However, there was a recent rise in absences during the month of February is too slight to draw. But this increase is very slight, so we cannot draw any definitive conclusions from this.

Don’t let this data fool you though. The flu is a very real threat, and everyone is at risk.

The influenza vaccine includes both influenza A and influenza B virus.  Early studies so far indicate that the flu vaccines this season have been 43 percent  effective against influenza A and 73 percent effective against influenza B. This is normally how effective the vaccines are, according to Guzman-Cottrill.

So what causes the flu to spread in schools?

One theory is that the cold weather can indirectly make  the spread of the flu worse. This is because people crowd around inside, and are with each other for long periods of time. There is a pressure at Lincoln to not miss class because you’re sick, in fear of falling behind.

This can mean that  students who are sick to come to school and infect their peers. Ways to help prevent spreading the flu are good hand washing, covering your coughs, and staying home when you’re sick.

Guzman-Cottrill leaves Lincoln students with a final word:

“If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet this year, I encourage students to get immunized!”